(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assistant resident representative Sharifa Ali-Abdullah says cultural beliefs contribute to the sexual abuse and battering of women and children in T&T.
Speaking yesterday at the launch of a magazine promoting the Madinah House, a safe house for battered women and children, Ali-Abdullah said confusion over religious beliefs has triggered violence in homes, with some men believing they have a moral right to beat their spouses.
“While the United Nations has declared violence against women a pandemic in 1993, today, more than 26 years later, one in three women still experience physical and sexual violence,” Ali-Abdullah said.
She noted that a 2017 T&T Women’s Health survey revealed one in every three women has suffered from violence at the hands of a partner.
“This means that of our 1.4 million men women and children, approximately 130,000 women in T&T have experienced some form of violence,” she added.
Ali-Abdullah said Muslim women are not spared from the abuse.
“Our cultural beliefs fuel this violent attitude towards women and children. Our notions about manhood and womanhood, love and family are shaped and reinforced by messages from religion and the media and have had a significant influence on what people believe about the interaction between men and women,” she said.
She added, “It is clear that Allah ordained that men and women are equal, that they complement each other, but equality does not mean sameness. The Muslim woman can choose to participate and respond appropriately to the needs of her family, community and country.”
Saying there was a war against family and marriage, Ali-Abdullah said the media also contributes towards violence as some genres of music denigrate and disrespect women and promote the culture of violence.
“I want to state my total disgust for the manner in which some people use social media to attack marriage and family and promote disrespect for these institutions, which nibbles away and eventually leads to the weakening of these fundamental structures for a peaceful existence,” she said.
She also added that the UNDP will be continuing research into domestic violence as well as executing initiatives such as the Peaceful Families project.
Madinah House president Lydia Choate also said they were facing financial challenges because of the non-payment of the government subvention. She urged members to continue to support the establishment. Since it was opened in 1999, Madinah House has rescued over 1,200 women from domestic violence and sexual abuse.
The magazine features several articles outlining the importance of the shelter, the psycho-social effects of domestic violence, drug abuse and violence, as well as legislation related to domestic violence.
Also attending the function were patron and former First Lady Zalayhar Hassanali, former politician Nafeesa Mohammed and Madinah House PRO Farial Ali.